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Category : Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route (SHR) is an alternate route — not a trail — through the high Sierra Nevada suggested by Steve Roper in his 1990 book Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline County. It somewhat parallels the John Muir Trail (JMT) for most its length, and briefly uses the JMT to move from one crest to another. Steve Roper agonized over whether to share the route in a book; he feared its pristine nature would be damaged by overuse.


Between the months of June and October 2015, I had the privilege to take on every mile of the SHR, solo. I attacked it in a south to north fashion; however, I started with a chunk at the north, and hiked subsequent chunks moving south by a chunk from that. I had the luxury to be able to take chunks over the course of several months, when I felt up to them. However, as I approached the southernmost chunk, smoke from the expansive (80,000 acres and only 25% at the time of writing in early September) Rough Fire filled the Kings Canyon and closed the southern terminus at Cedar Grove. It’s uncertain when I will be able to hike the remaining 30 miles from Land’s End to Taboose Pass (the SHR near the southern foot of Mathers Pass).

I kept my camper van in Lone Pine, a wild frontier town in the Eastern Sierra, and resupplied from there. All trail access was done by hitchhiking and the Eastern Sierra Transit bus. As I already had the gear from my PCT thru-hike, this hike cost me very little money (mostly just food expense).


June 13-15th: Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes
July 15-19th: Reds Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows
July 24-27th: Piute Pass to Reds Meadow
August 16-20th: Taboose Pass to Piute Pass
October 18-22nd: Kearsarge Pass to Taboose Pass

Total trail miles: ~195 of 195 (Roper’s main suggested route almost completed; two “major” alternates used: Alpine Col and Cartridge Pass)
Total miles hiked (access trails included): 233
Total days on trail: 21
Today days on the SHR: 19

Marion Lake

In 1901 Joseph LeConte married Helen Marion Gompertz, a fellow member of the Sierra Club. In 1902 they backpacked up the little known Cartridge Creek and discovered a beautiful unnamed lake. LeConte named the lake Marion after his wife, and when she died in 1924, a formal plaque was placed on a rock on the… continue reading

Cloudbreak

5300 vertical feet and 5 hours later (whew, did it really take me that long to climb the Copper Creek Trail?) I reached Granite Basin. I took this SHR alternate with more established trail due to snow on the ground and weather conditions (cold, possible snow). Also, supposedly there’s a ranger station nearby (I didn’t… continue reading

Rough Fire

I’m trying to stay cool about the fact that the Rough Fire might keep me from finishing the last 30 miles of my 195-mile Sierra High Route hike this season. I’ve hitch-hiked 850 miles to Portland to visit family and friends and wait it out a bit, but it’s now the biggest wildfire in California,… continue reading

Goeth Lake

One from Thursday, my last day on the Sierra High Route for a while (while I wait for the Rough Fire to fizzle out). I was in a rush and over-confident over this massive field of gigantic talus, and I took a serious fall. I bruised my left pinky finger and almost lost my water… continue reading

Prayer Flags at Muir Hut

Muir Pass hut, view of smoke from the Rough fire Wednesday night. Pray even harder for rain! Everything south of Muir Pass on the JMT/Pacific Crest Trail is pretty bad smoke-wise for hikers, with many of them abandoning their hikes. I stayed up there, looking at it this way: most inner city children have worse… continue reading

Untitled

North Palisade (14,242 feet), a skeleton of a mountain, snapped and crumbled loudly all night while I slept under it at 11,922 feet; a phantasmagoric sunset opposite, provoked by wildfire smoke.

Heart-shaped Hole

During this descent [along Mill Creek down the Second Recess] the hiker can enjoy an unusual Sierra sight. Across the Second Recess and about one mile distant is a gigantic, heart-shaped hole in a steep cliff. So incongruous is this feature that the mind struggles to explain it. Perhaps it is a gouge left after… continue reading

Feather Peak

View of gorgeous Feather Peak from Feather Pass (12,375ft) on Saturday (3/3 panorama, for full view see my profile). Viewed from other angles it’s obvious why it was named “Feather.” I like this striking angle, too. I had a conversation with Poet yesterday. When I’m less than 500 feet from bagging a peak as I… continue reading